Facebook Blesses Android, Damns Apple

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In the end, Facebook (FB)'s "phone" announcement has little impact on Facebook itself. The key takeaway is that Facebook just made thegreatest endorsement of Android imaginable, while basically relegatingApple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT) and BlackBerry (BBRY) to second-class citizens.

Facebook's huge endorsement of Android is a symptom of a largerindustry trend, with Android's relative openness winning over Apple'smore restrictive iOS. This is the kind of trend that is not swiftlyor easily reversible.

Let's go through the impact of Facebook's announcement, company by company:

Google: The Facebook announcement was nothing short of a big Androidadvertisement. HTC is launching a dedicated Android phone that isoptimized for Facebook, and a "lighter" version of this Facebooksoftware implementation will be available for a couple of other Samsung and HTC Android phones as well.

The Facebook software does not subtract much -- if anything -- fromGoogle's value on the Android platform, while diverting users fromApple, Microsoft and BlackBerry. What more could Google ( GOOG) have askedfor? Essentially nothing. One almost thinks Google has incriminatingpictures of Mark Zuckerberg, given how he buttered up to his corporateneighbors located a few short miles down the street.

Apple: Apple usually hosts an event mid-late March quarter to announce a newiPad, or at least a preview of a new software version for the iPhone.Well, not this year. Something has gone astray in Cupertino. iOS 7is running late. This is in turn delaying what will surely eventuallybe new iPads and iPhones launching later in the year.

The problem for Apple is that they needed the new products in March --and in June -- not in September or October. There is some fear thatApple's March sales could be weak, given the lack of new product, andeven worse in June. Perhaps September may even be in doubt, if iOS 7and associated devices are running late and things are not on storeshelves until October. Pain!

Poor Apple.

And here comes Mark Zuckerberg, pouring salt into Apple's open wound.He all but peed on Apple. Basically, reading between the lines,Zuckerberg said that Apple's platform in its current state is simplynot as friendly to Facebook -- and by extension to every otherthird-party app provider either.

Zuckerberg's message to the app development community: Work more onAndroid, less on Apple.

Can Apple cure this situation? Of course it can. However, it willlikely take a lot of time -- not a month or two, but more like a yearor two. It is not easy, even though more of the difficulty resides inApple's political/philosophical domain, rather than in its technical.Apple believes in its "total control" of the experience, and toconvert to Android's far more open philosophy will requireswallowing a lot of pride and memories of Steve Jobs' old principles.

Facebook: Forty years ago, in the movie Magnum Force, Inspector "Dirty Harry" Callahan, played by Clint Eastwood, said "A man's got to know his limitations." Facebook does not seem to agree. It thinks it is thecenter of the human universe, the source of all knowledge and good.

Facebook seems to believe that people want more Facebook, totalimmersion. Facebook seems to believe that people actually want tospend more time on Facebook than they already do. For this reason,they have created this new way -- on Android only -- to get even moreimmersed into the world of Facebook.

I think most people think exactly the opposite. I think most peopleare trying to spend less time on Facebook. Most people view Facebookas an addiction. They may not want to reduce their presence onFacebook to 0%, but they want to reduce it nevertheless. Perhaps cutthe time they spend on Facebook by 30% or 50%. Basically, go on aFacebook diet. Not to starve themselves, but to become healthy again.

Today, whether you're on iOS, Android or Windows Phone, Facebook isone app among others. It's one of many buttons on one of the homescreens. I think most people feel that's an appropriate place. It'seasy to go there, but it doesn't take precedence over everything elseyou do on the phone.

Clearly, people are different. Some people want to binge on Facebook.They are addicted and they want even more of it. Greasy burgers andLas Vegas casinos do sell. People are addicted to all sorts ofthings. This new Facebook home on Android gives these people a placeto binge.

Good for them. I'll most likely pass, thank you.

Bottom line on Facebook: By putting its fate intoGoogle's hands, they will be able to target Facebook addicts better.That's an incremental positive for Facebook, perhaps. The question ishow much? How many addicts are clamoring for this?

I suspect that this will be a slight positive for Facebook, but notsomething that changes the smartphone landscape or ecosystemmaterially in its favor. The big favor that was done with Facebook'sannouncement was that it just told every app developer in the worldthat Android is the place to be, and Apple is a place you shouldrelegate to second-citizen status.

Google's shareholders just sent Mark Zuckerberg the biggest giftbasket they could afford. Apple went back to the bedroom, locked thedoor, threw itself onto the bed, and started sobbing.

Google - Apple: 1-0.

At the time of publication, the author was long GOOG, AAPLand FB, and short MSFT.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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